What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

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What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby ashgray » Thu Apr 02, 2009 3:30 am UTC

When you're reading text that isn't in quotations, what kind of mental voice do you read it with (Mine has always been much like the narrator's in the British version of Planet Earth)?
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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby poxic » Thu Apr 02, 2009 5:53 am UTC

Usually it's a quiet, clippy version of my own voice, unless I'm reading something entertaining/odd/terribly dull that needs to be enlivened. In that case, I might hear someone's voice I've heard recently (coworker, friend, Yahtzee), voluntarily or otherwise.

Once, I was trying to read some of Edgar Allen Poe's poetry and was having a rough time of it. I just couldn't find the meter or the musicality of it. I finally tried hearing it as though Patrick Stewart were reading it to me, turning over control to my subconscious or some damn thing. Amazingly enough, it worked. Now I like a lot of Poe's verse, especially To Helen and The Bells.
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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby BAMN » Thu Apr 02, 2009 5:17 pm UTC

ashgray wrote:When you're reading text that isn't in quotations, what kind of mental voice do you read it with (Mine has always been much like the narrator's in the British version of Planet Earth)?


David Attenborough? Isn't that exhausting, reading in - that - drawn - out - breathy - way - all - the - time?

I guess for me the voice is close to my own, with less of an accent. A sort of clipped, non-plummy, Received Pronunciation.

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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby Gojoe » Thu Apr 02, 2009 5:20 pm UTC

I uh. I do not hear a voice persay. I see what is going on. And the voice is that of the character (what my brain makes for his voice). Does that make sense? It is like I am watching a movie in my head...
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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby nirvana_grace » Thu Apr 02, 2009 8:06 pm UTC

I'm currently reading Carl Sagan's The Demon-Haunted World. I hear it in "his" voice -- the voice that I remember from Cosmos. I've listened to enough of Neil Gaiman reading his own work, that I hear his stories in his voice when I read them. Otherwise, I hear a "neutral" internal voice when I read. It's not my own voice, though. Or at least I don't identify it as an internal representation of my external voice.
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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby Dingbats » Thu Apr 02, 2009 8:36 pm UTC

Pretty much my own voice, except it can pronounce English better than the real me can.

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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby It Should Be Real » Thu Apr 02, 2009 10:32 pm UTC

Generally I hear it as if I were reading it aloud and listening to myself.
Only I don't stumble over words and get embarassed by it.
And it's odd, reading character's dialogue, I don't hear their voice in my mind, I hear how I would sound trying to imitate their voice, which is a good tool for making me smile when reading overly-wordy, not too interesting school assigned stuff.

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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby Hobgoblin » Fri Apr 03, 2009 12:35 am UTC

Sometimes, in intense times of a book, I read in a mentally-brutal and guttural voice. Like a metal vocalist.

Other than that, it's a version of me that reads aloud almost perfectly, but sometimes reads the same line twice, and sometimes keeps reading while his brain trails off somewhere else and he finds out later that he lost the place he stopped paying attention, and has to go back and find it.

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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby zug » Fri Apr 03, 2009 12:44 am UTC

I believe that I read differently than a vast majority of people (when I was growing up people would always tell me to enjoy books instead of inhaling them, but I didn't understand what they meant. I can read a book faster than 95% of people I've ever met without trying to, and absorb everything from it, it's just my natural pace). I don't hear a voice reading inside me at all. I see the words and understand them. erm, I grok instead of read? I'm able to grok entire lines of text at once instead of words, if I push myself.

But if grokking for enjoyment, I just absorb a scene into my brain a sentence at a time, and it creates a picture in my mind, like a mental movie. After I read a chapter in a book, if I think back on the story, instead of thinking in words I will think in a motion picture.

As opposed to when I was forced to read out loud in school, my mouth could never keep up with how fast my brain was grokking the words, and I would talk really really really fast to try to keep up. And frequently when I was made to read something out loud, afterward I couldn't even remember what I said because I wasn't able to form the mental images that I would if grokking normally.

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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby steewi » Fri Apr 03, 2009 1:42 am UTC

Zug, that's actually quite normal for a fluent reader. Many people do a grok-type thing, where they read 5-10 words at a time. If something doesn't sit right, you do a double take and reread it with the individual words. Blind people reading braille have a similar process. They read with both hands at the same time. The right does the first pass, and the left reads behind it (about a line behind), making sure that they match up. I can find a reference for that if someone wants it. I'd have to dig it up in my conference papers. If you want to read things carefully and retain it, you switch back to a word-by-word process, which takes much longer, but you're more likely to pick up errors, cross-references, allusions and the like. You can still pick them up with a fast reading though. Spelling errors have a habit of jumping out at me as I skim over things.

When you're learning a foreign language, it takes a lot longer to read a text, not just because you need to puzzle out the sentences, but you don't get into the grokking frame of mind.

Continuing in this frame of reference, I don't hear what I'm reading for the most part, because I'm grokking. When I'm reading carefully, however, for editing, for research, and so on, I'm more likely to have my own voice reading. Usually, like mentioned above, it's my voice without the stuttering and tongue-tiedness that often comes with it, but sometimes my mental voice gets tongue-tied as well.

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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby zug » Fri Apr 03, 2009 2:21 am UTC

steewi wrote:Zug, that's actually quite normal for a fluent reader. Many people do a grok-type thing, where they read 5-10 words at a time. If something doesn't sit right, you do a double take and reread it with the individual words. Blind people reading braille have a similar process. They read with both hands at the same time. The right does the first pass, and the left reads behind it (about a line behind), making sure that they match up. I can find a reference for that if someone wants it. I'd have to dig it up in my conference papers. If you want to read things carefully and retain it, you switch back to a word-by-word process, which takes much longer, but you're more likely to pick up errors, cross-references, allusions and the like. You can still pick them up with a fast reading though. Spelling errors have a habit of jumping out at me as I skim over things.

When you're learning a foreign language, it takes a lot longer to read a text, not just because you need to puzzle out the sentences, but you don't get into the grokking frame of mind.

Continuing in this frame of reference, I don't hear what I'm reading for the most part, because I'm grokking. When I'm reading carefully, however, for editing, for research, and so on, I'm more likely to have my own voice reading. Usually, like mentioned above, it's my voice without the stuttering and tongue-tiedness that often comes with it, but sometimes my mental voice gets tongue-tied as well.

neat! I should look into that braille thing, I never really thought about it before.

I started grokking Spanish at the end of my 4th year, to the point where if we were doing translations out loud, I would occasionally confuse a Spanish word for an English word because they were The Same Thingtm in my head. If the page said, "El gato esta en mis pantalones" and I were tasked with translating it, I might say out loud "The gato is in my pants" and not even realize I made a mistake unless someone else pointed it out.

hehe I should really brush up, my espanol is rusty as hell
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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby Bassoon » Sat Apr 04, 2009 2:11 am UTC

I don't really associate words with sounds when not reading aloud, I don't think. Although, when I compose things, I do listen to myself speak in my head and then type that out. But that's only for half of the i/o stream. When I read, I comprehend the word. With poetry, however, I hear the word being spoke by "nothing," if that makes sense. Nothing really says it, but I can hear it being said. Indescribable.

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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby Dezign » Sat Apr 04, 2009 12:35 pm UTC

I've hoping to find another thread about this for quite some time. The reports of other peoples' qualia are fascinating.

I usually read everything as though it had a voice to it. I adjust the voice to match what I think the author thinks they sound like, sometimes with great detail; I'd go back and reread a line if I don't get the intonation just right. In my opinion this has helped immensely with my reading comprehension of Shakespeare for my literature class this semester. <_< Some part of me thinks the voiceover a good idea for reading comprehension, but... I really wish I'd master the voiceless reading technique, as it sounds much faster. The only problem is when I try this I can't convince myself I learned anything from what I'd read... :| Is there some way to get past that?

Incidentally, I remember practicing speed reading aloud in grade school, except I ended up speaking far faster than I normally do and remembering very little of what I said.

and sometimes keeps reading while his brain trails off somewhere else and he finds out later that he lost the place he stopped paying attention, and has to go back and find it.


This happens to me! Often! I think the voice even keeps going but it doesn't enter into memory as meaningful, as though the reading machine in my head walked out of the room. I wish I knew what was going on here. The obvious answer is that I got distracted, but isn't it kind of odd that we'd have a reading machine separate from the understanding machine in our heads?

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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby Isotope_238 » Sat Apr 04, 2009 6:57 pm UTC

I don't think I really hear a voice, but I do sense inflection and punctuation. When a passage is improperly punctuated or formatted, it grates on me. A poorly placed comma can interrupt the whole flow of a paragraph, and then I mentally trip over the words.

I hate it when people overuse capital letters because then I sense SHOUTING IN MY HEAD. And random Capitalizations in the middle of a Sentence, not applied to Proper Nouns, cause my mental not-a-voice to overemphasize those words, and it's very annoying. I know some fantasy authors are guilty of this. On the other hand, stream of consciousness may be all 'artistic' and 'creative,' but it just reads like a massive run-on sentence without a chance to draw breath, so I wind up mentally gasping for air.

So there you have. A glimpse into the inner workings of my mind.

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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby Hooch » Sat Apr 04, 2009 7:58 pm UTC

When I'm reading problems in my homework, quizzes or tests, I hear the voice of the teacher that assigned the work. When I was reading Cosmos, I heard Carl Sagan's voice. When reading novels, I usually imagine my friends as certain characters.
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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby apricity » Sat Apr 04, 2009 9:27 pm UTC

I don't associate reading with speaking at all (which makes it really difficult for me to read out loud and still comprehend the text). I guess the best way to explain it is that I read meaning. I take in the words so that they're not words at all, but meaningful phrases. I don't hear voices or picture scenes at all.

The weird thing about me is that I think that way too... I think in meanings rather than words or pictures, which makes it REALLY hard for me to ever describe what I'm thinking, which makes fluency in speaking English (let alone a foreign language) difficult for me.
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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby Senefen » Sun Apr 05, 2009 9:58 am UTC

Something pretty similar to my own voice. A little more feminine maybe.
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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby gaurwraith » Sun Apr 05, 2009 1:33 pm UTC

What I would say is that if you need a "voice" to read, then you don't know how to read, you are not able to read. And by reading I mean to really get inside the book, like words stop being words and become what they depict, roughly speaking

Maybe its just the way I read though, but with audio books and storytellers, or just yesterday my flatmate rading aloud a long wikipedia article, looking back at it now I find that after some time Im not really hearing the voice but just, ehmm, imagining, visualizing. With some texts it is of course easier, it is not just that you see some words in a row and you are astral travelling to somewhere out there.
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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby Hooch » Sun Apr 05, 2009 5:24 pm UTC

About the only problem is that when there's narration between certain actions or dialogue, I'm still thinking of the action or dialogue in my head. For example, in the Harry Potter series, Harry tends to pace a lot. Unfortunately, J.K. (as talented as she is) will often add in narration right after she mentions that Harry is pacing. It then takes me a few minutes until he makes his next move, and I'll visualize him pacing the entire time. He tends to seem mentally handicapped this way. X 3
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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby apricity » Sun Apr 05, 2009 6:43 pm UTC

Hooch wrote:About the only problem is that when there's narration between certain actions or dialogue, I'm still thinking of the action or dialogue in my head. For example, in the Harry Potter series, Harry tends to pace a lot. Unfortunately, J.K. (as talented as she is) will often add in narration right after she mentions that Harry is pacing. It then takes me a few minutes until he makes his next move, and I'll visualize him pacing the entire time. He tends to seem mentally handicapped this way. X 3
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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby poxic » Sun Apr 05, 2009 7:16 pm UTC

gaurwraith wrote:What I would say is that if you need a "voice" to read, then you don't know how to read, you are not able to read. And by reading I mean to really get inside the book, like words stop being words and become what they depict, roughly speaking

I would challenge that. I do hear a voice when I read, though it's clipped from going so fast. It's not how I understand what I read -- that I get from the meaning, or from the visualisation of the scene. The sound of the words may just be mental static in the background, but it's there.
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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby Bobber » Sun Apr 05, 2009 8:55 pm UTC

On another note: What color are the words you see when you listen to speech?

Mine are red.
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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby Grop » Sun Apr 05, 2009 8:57 pm UTC

Dingbats wrote:Pretty much my own voice, except it can pronounce English better than the real me can.


Same for me, particularly when reading English. Sometimes I read out loud - mostly to practice all these weird foreign sounds :mrgreen: - therefore I am used to pretending I am telling the story.

Bobber, I don't think I understand your question about colors.

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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby Bobber » Sun Apr 05, 2009 9:02 pm UTC

Grop wrote:Bobber, I don't think I understand your question about colors.
You know, the words you see inside your head when you listen to speech. For example, somebody says "Potatos." And you can see the word in your mind's eye.
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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby poxic » Sun Apr 05, 2009 9:29 pm UTC

I see black words, in something like Times New Roman font (or whatever most of our textbooks in school were printed with). Not everyone sees words in their head when they hear them spoken, I think -- that's supposed to be one marker of whether someone is good at spelling. People who do things more phonetically have a worse time with spelling in English.

If I see a tree and stop to notice it, I generally hear the word "tree" in my head, in my voice, within a second or so. Another second or less later, I "see" the word in my head, as though I were reading it on a page. Just the brain running through its association circuits. If I stay mentally still for a bit, I'll also get other associations bubbling up into consciousness, usually strong images associated with trees. It's fun to sit back and observe the brain at work, sometimes. Thinking about it too much can get uncomfortably meta after a while, though. (Aaaahhh! The thing that's making these associations is observing itself while it makes them! And now it's observing its observation of its observations! AAAAAGGHHH!)
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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby gaurwraith » Sun Apr 05, 2009 10:01 pm UTC

poxic,
i don't know

I can think of a voice reading maybe as I type this or when beggining to read something, but, do you really keep hearing a voice when you are reading for lets say, half an hour, and all sucked in?
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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby poxic » Sun Apr 05, 2009 11:20 pm UTC

Yes, though I often don't pay attention to it. While reading (I almost typed "listening to") your post, I listened in on the mental narration. It doesn't really pronounce every word, unless I'm proofreading or otherwise going slowly. Normally, it skips over or blurs together unimportant words and is more clear on the central nouns and verbs. If I'm going along at a good clip, there's often little more than the main vowel sound of the main subject and verb, plus some filler from the rest of the sentence.

It's sort of like how going anywhere in sunlight means you'll have a shadow trailing along behind; reading words at any speed, in any context, is automatically associated with how those words are pronounced for me. I don't necessarily pay attention to it, but it's always there. It's the same with "seeing" words when I think them. I don't "read" what I'm thinking, but if I give it half a moment's notice I'll find out that the spelling and appearance of the words are kicking around in my head somewhere.

I'd expect this to be the same mental mechanism that makes you think of how a carrot tastes when you see one. Because our brains are basically clusters of association circuits (if a neurologist xkcdian can describe this better/more formally, please do), thoughts tend to happen in clouds of associations whether we notice them or not. For me, writing and speaking and reading and listening are all tightly wired to each other. For others, reading and writing might be more distant from speaking and listening. (For synaesthetes, colours, sounds, tastes, textures, and numbers/words can all or partly be wired together quite firmly. The brain is a fascinating device, even if it is the thing that's telling me that.)
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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby Grop » Mon Apr 06, 2009 8:11 am UTC

I don't "see" words when listening to others. If I wonder how a specific word is spelled, it is quite abstract.

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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby Bobber » Mon Apr 06, 2009 10:13 am UTC

Grop wrote:I don't "see" words when listening to others. If I wonder how a specific word is spelled, it is quite abstract.
Not even when you purposedly try to do it?
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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby Grop » Mon Apr 06, 2009 12:47 pm UTC

Then it would probably be black*, but I suppose it could be whatever color you purposedly name. I thought we were talking about what we naturally do.

* This, or maybe the colour of magic.

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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby Kizyr » Mon Apr 06, 2009 2:34 pm UTC

Bobber wrote:
Grop wrote:Bobber, I don't think I understand your question about colors.
You know, the words you see inside your head when you listen to speech. For example, somebody says "Potatos." And you can see the word in your mind's eye.

Off-white text on a black background. It's in a standard sans-serif font (like Helvetica or a bolder Arial font). I never even realized it until reading your example.

For the first question, the voice I hear depends on how I picture the originator of the words, with some elements of randomness. I read my own stuff and it's my own voice. I read BBC articles and it's the standard RP of a male anchor (unless I know it's written by a woman, in which case it's the standard RP of a female anchor). For the posts on this thread, it'll randomly alternate between a male or female voice, kind of similar to my own, but softer and with better tonal quality. When I read literature, it's either a clipped version of my own voice, or Morgan Freeman--except for dialogue, then it varies.

When I used to read philosophy books in college, I'd distance myself from philosophers (to allow a more objective view) by giving them a silly voice. Socrates and Plato have this falsetto voice that changes in pitch all over the place. KF
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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby year in the sun » Sat Apr 18, 2009 9:54 am UTC

i don't hear any voice in my head either - no inline interpreter, no running commentary from my internal voice, and no echo either. i just get the text and what the text means sort of simultaneously or something. it's hard to explain but grok is about right. individual letters do make sounds in my head though, if i want them to.

i read pretty much the same way as i hear. my ears hear a word and my brain doesn't have to tell itself what it means. it just knows, recognises, what have you. my eyes do the same thing when i read. so it's almost like marks on the page are an alternative/parallel language in their own right. like my eyes and my ears both 'speak' english, but independently of each other. other languages are different. i'm fluent in none but i can speak bits of two. i sound those ones out to myself mentally, but more to practice my mental pronunciation and experience the sound of it than to help me interpret what's on the page. the voice i use is my own.

i'd be interested to know whether people who've given similar answers have anything in common with how/when they learned to read in the first place. i'm one of the ones who just kind of developed it somehow it in the same way i developed the understanding of spoken language somewhere before formal school. so as far as i recall i never went through any phase of having an explicit aural link spelled out to me between letters and sounds. in fact when i started school and met with that experience, i was severely confused by it. of course i realised that it was *supposed* to lead to being able to read, but i just couldn't figure out why or how they were related. the whole thing is pretty moot for me though because my first-grade school was on a strange kick which involved teaching the kids to read in i.p.a. first. since it doesn't look anything like standard english text, i was also just genuinely, completely lost. it might as well have been cyrillic to me for all the sense i ever made out of it.

they tested me halfway through that year for what they tactfully called 'backwardness' and then i escaped to a different school :D

other question: how do people feel about having books/poetry read to them by other people? does it bug you? do you enjoy it? and do you think how you feel about that correlates to your own silent reading style in any way?
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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby deanboyj » Sat Apr 18, 2009 6:51 pm UTC

I hear my phonological loop

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poxic
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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby poxic » Sat Apr 18, 2009 8:09 pm UTC

My parents discovered while I was still small that I was a quick learner. When I was a year old, apparently my Dad taught me what all the cards in a deck were called. (I don't know how he knew that since I doubt I could talk well then.) By the time I was three, I was writing some simple words. Mom has a note in a scrapbook somewhere that says something like "i LoVE yOu mOM", with her handwriting beside it saying "poxic, age 3 yrs X months" (I've forgotten what X was. Maybe 4 or 7).

That might have something to do with why the appearance and sound of a word always seem to go together for me. Years of flash cards used by overeager parents, maybe? I still remember arguing with one of them about the word "knee". I didn't believe them when they said the k was silent. But it says ka-nee!...
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6453893
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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby 6453893 » Sun Apr 19, 2009 1:18 am UTC

I hear Christopher Hurt. He's my favorite narrator, and I've heard enough of his audiobooks that he has become permanently lodged in my brain.

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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby obituary » Sun Apr 19, 2009 2:10 am UTC

When I read stuff in here, or dictate to myself what I'm writing (as I'm doing right now...) It sounds basically like my voice, but when I read books and stuff I agree with others who say they can imagine whats going on/get in on the action (hah.)
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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby year in the sun » Sun Apr 19, 2009 6:51 am UTC

obituary wrote: imagine whats going on/get in on the action (hah.)

:shock: what kind of books are you reading???
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6453893
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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby 6453893 » Sun Apr 19, 2009 8:29 am UTC

gaurwraith wrote:What I would say is that if you need a "voice" to read, then you don't know how to read, you are not able to read. And by reading I mean to really get inside the book, like words stop being words and become what they depict, roughly speaking


Read L'Innommable and get back to me.

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sio
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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby sio » Sun Apr 19, 2009 8:40 am UTC

I don't hear a voice when I read.

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Re: What kind of voice do you hear in your head when you read?

Postby TheCitadel » Mon Apr 20, 2009 11:36 pm UTC

Hooch wrote:When I'm reading problems in my homework, quizzes or tests, I hear the voice of the teacher that assigned the work. When I was reading Cosmos, I heard Carl Sagan's voice. When reading novels, I usually imagine my friends as certain characters.


Wow, that's so organised. I mean, it must be great to be able to do that, but when I'm reading something that is written by a known/famous narrator (for example, a speech by my country's president) I usually start reading it with that person's voice till the effect wears out and then it's boring old me again. With this I mean to say that reading and 'picturing' the other's voice in my head at the same time takes effort. I don't know. Plus, someone who is speaking about something does it at a much slower pace than the reading speed, therefore if I don't change the voice of the narrator, I increase its speed at least.
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